Manual Therapy and Why I Still Use It
What is Manual Therapy? Is it massage? Is it the cracking of joints? Is it a manipulating of tissues? Am I re-arranging your body? Putting things back in place? Putting things back in alignment?
I am not an extremist in any of my actions, principles, and ways of living and working. Maybe I'm an extremist about not being an extremist.
In this way, I do not think there is only one way to help a patient/client. I don't think just movement, exercise or only manual therapy, and whatever else by themselves will help a patient/client (let's just include all the gadgets and physical practices in the world in here as well). Neither will I discount any one method nor dogma. Unless you teach people to completely depend on you and feel lousy about themselves, then please dig yourself a deep hole, jump in it and think about your actions. Also if a dogma promotes exclusion of other groups and ways of thinking, you can go into the thinking hole as well.
If we're going to talk about Manual Therapy, we have to talk about one of the most essential parts of it. Touch.
Touch, an integral part of our existence and social exchanges. What happens to a baby not touched at all? (click to read about baby monkeys who were separated from their mothers) What happens to a human who is hugged often or who is hit often? What is a familiar touch? How do we feel when we receive comforting touch, touch that reminds us that we are here, we are safe and we are loved?
I do think there is space for Manual Therapy in rehab. Not the invasive poking or prodding, not the manipulation of tissues and joints, not the you like down and do nothing, not the I-fix-you passive intervention it is known for.
The Manual Therapy I'm talking about is the physical and emotional conversation that happens between therapist and patient/client. One where both are participating and exploring together. Communicating through touch (with some verbal cues and of course all the things we pick up subconsciously like facial expressions and body language).
"Can you bring more ease to this area?"
"Here is where your shoulder is, shall we try moving over here? Maybe see how the joint feels in this position?"
"Let's focus on exhaling instead of inhaling. Try getting more air out so we can get more air in."
The therapist encourages, facilitates and provides help as the client walks through territory that's unknown, long-forgotten, or scary.
Through touch, we are affirmed; reminded of things we forgot existed, perspectives of places and parts shift, safety for exploration and building new pathways.
The body is rediscovered; a state of being renewed.
I am not doing anything to you. I am not the fixer. I am holding and creating the space you need to help yourself, because sometimes we all need a little help to help ourselves. Sometimes this is with Manual Therapy, sometimes this is with talk therapy, or psychotherapy, or somatic therapy, or movement, or heavy-ass lifting.
So if Manual Therapy or what I prefer to refer to as Touch Therapy works and helps you go on your way to help yourself, then I will use it. But know that I'm not moving things back in place. I mean, imagine if I could do that, how easily would it be for that to go so very wrong as well.